Editor’s Note: Food trucks are increasing in popularity around Jefferson City, offering original, delicious dishes that meet just about every taste for hungry patrons. Find out more about five local food trucks and their creative culinary treats to please anyone’s inner foodie.
There’s a consistent theme with the REO Feedwagon, which has been parked just outside of The Bridge music venue for a little under a year now: necessity.
The Feedwagon came about as a cost-effective means for having a restaurant for the venue, said Wes Wingate, co-owner of The Bridge.
“It’s odd, I’ll admit that,” Wingate said. “I was going to put a kitchen in and the way this building is built, putting a hood unit in so I could have a fryer … a deep fryer obviously creates really hot, dangerous oily smoke, so the hood unit and the piping (cost) would’ve been crazy. So I thought, ‘I’ll buy a trailer for a third of the cost, put it outside and do whatever we want.’”
The Feedwagon has done catering events, served Sunday brunches, been open for several happy hours and appeared at multiple Food Truck Fridays at the Bridge. However, the trailer has yet to actually go mobile.
“I’ve been waiting to hear an offer good enough to make it worth moving because this is an entire kitchen,” said Denise Wingate, a relative to Wes and the Feedwagon’s chef and operator. “There’s a Deepfreeze and refrigerator, fryer and a flat top. There’s dishes and pots and pans and spices and ingredients, and you’ve got to clean the fryer and you’ve got to secure everything. It’s just a big process, so I’ve just been waiting for the right offer and we got one.”
The Feedwagon’s main purpose isn’t so much about going mobile.
“It’s got to be worth it to take it somewhere,” he said. “If it makes sense for us to do it, we’ll do it. Otherwise, its main purpose is to serve as a restaurant for our little music venue.”
The food at the Feedwagon takes on a similar feel to the Feedwagon itself in that it’s simple and satisfying. The menu, which includes items named “The Zappa,” “B.B. King,” “Glenn Fries” and “The Eye of the Thai-ger,” is born of a family full of artists in the Wingates.
“We just sit around and try to think of a food pun that is somehow rock ‘n’ roll and go from there,” Wes Wingate said.
Beyond the names, the menu items are efficient, affordable creations that include hot dogs, pulled pork sandwiches, loaded french fries, lettuce wraps and poutine.
“Necessity I guess being the mother of invention there,” Wes Wingate said on the creation of his menu. “I guess mostly out of what is practical to being open just a few days a week. … What’s universally liked and fairly cheap to make and cheap to sell. It’s expanded since then. That was the initial thing: pulled pork and hot dogs; it’s not rocket science but, adding the lettuce wraps and adding different things, we’re just kind of adding as we go.”
According to Denise, there’s too many good items on the menu for her to have just one favorite, but if she had to pick one, it’d be the B.B. King, which she said is just pulled pork on a brioche bun. Menu items can range from anything as simple as the B.B. King to the Chopin, Wes’s favorite item. It’s “The Zappa with the B.B. King,” essentially a split, seared hot dog with pulled pork sitting atop it.
The REO Feedwagon sits at The Bridge music venue at 619 E. Capitol Ave. Find the Feedwagon on Facebook @reofeedwagon for hours and events.
For Don and Diane Irwin, co-owners and operators of Love My Gelato, their passion and interest for gelato started about a decade ago in the streets of Florence, Italy, while on vacation.
“You can’t throw a rock and not hit a gelato shop in Italy,” Don said.
After their trip, the Irwin family searched for gelato in every city they traveled to in the United States, but it wasn’t until a trip to Phoenix in 2015 that the family found a gelato shop that tasted just like what they’d had in Florence.
“While we were there, we stopped at a place called Frost Gelato and it was every bit as good as what we had in Italy,” Don said. “We went during the day and then we actually came back that evening. Well, the line was out the door and down the block. So I’m thinking, ‘Alright, There’s a market for it.’ So I started to do a little research.”
From there, Don and his son, Kyle, completed a weeklong class on gelato making and the family laid out plans for not only equipment, but a mobile business plan that would, “take our business to the people instead of counting on people coming to us,” Don said.
“There’s still an investment,” Don said. “It takes something to build like this. To put the equipment in that you need, but there again, when you’re mobile it’s not like you’re waiting for somebody to show up. You can go find them.”
Love My Gelato offers a multitude of both gelatos and sorbets, with 23 flavors total. Those flavors range from things as simple as biscoff and stracciatella (vanilla gelato with dark chocolate chips), to unique tastes like pistachio and avocado basil.
According to Don, there’s a larger difference between ice cream and gelato than one might think. With less butter fat used, more intense flavors and a denser product, it’s almost as if gelato is the handsome Italian cousin of ice cream.
“It’s just a different experience,” Don said. “This tastes like ice cream, but it’s a little bit softer, a little bit smoother.”
While Love My Gelato normally does business out of their mobile trailer, a lot of work gets done in the “Gelaboratory,” a self-named commissary that also serves as a fully-equipped test kitchen where the product is made and flavor concepts become reality.
“It’s really just kind of limited to your imagination in terms of the different combinations put together,” Don said. “Last year being the first year I think we were, at least I was, a little hesitant to venture out too far just because we knew we had some stuff that came out right and I didn’t want to vary that too much, but I’m a little more confident now. I know that as long as I stick in the parameters of recipes I can try just about anything I want to.”
Love My Gelato, which started on July 4, 2017, operates out of a custom-made food trailer, that can be seen at local Jefferson City events and as a booth during the Capital City Farmers Market. Find Love My Gelato on Facebook @lovemygelato for events and contact information.
The inspiration for Rebel Tacos appeared for co-owners Andrea Young and Emily Reinkemeyer while on vacation in Mexico, however, the idea for serving up meals on wheels was one that, according to Young, Reinkemeyer had long wanted to act on.
“Emily has been in food service all of her life and she always wanted to do a food truck,” Young said. “She can make anything, but she had no idea how to narrow it down and we’re eating tacos and she’s like, ‘This is it.’”
After their Mexico trip, Young and Reinkemeyer searched for trucks, purchased one in September of 2017 and opened Rebel Tacos in December 2017. The truck operates primarily in the Jefferson City area, usually being open for lunch a few days a week and also works events. Young said the truck really wants to have put emphasis on being a local business.
“We go to Columbia sometimes, maybe a few times a months, but they have food trucks,” Young said. “Jeff City doesn’t have food trucks – well, we do have some – but we (Emily and I) live here. We want to keep it local as much as possible.”
Young also noted that, since opening in September, not only citizens of Jefferson City, but the city’s food truck community, has embraced the taco truck with open arms.
“We did not think we would be this busy,” Young said. “Jeff City has embraced us, and working together with other places like the (REO) Feedwagon and Luke at Ready Popped; he’s been an amazing resource for us. And Carla and Tiffany from Eat. Crepe. Love. have been great to us. I didn’t really think that Jeff City would embrace it as much as they have, but the people have and the businesses have, and all of the other trucks have been great.”
Rebel Tacos offers a fairly simple menu of tacos, quesadillas and tacos dorados, or fried tacos, with a revolving door of meats or toppings for tacos and quesadillas.
The truck started with a basic menu of beef, chicken and pork, but since the start, things have evolved and the truck now has a longer list of options, including carne asada, barbacoa, shrimp or fish and fried avocado.
The truck offers chips and salsa or street corn as a side. You can also buy Rebel Tacos T-shirts at the truck and the truck features some hybrid food combinations from time to time, Young said.
“Emily also loves mac and cheese, so we do a steak and mac ‘n’ cheese taco at times,” Young says. “It’s something that she just started doing one day, so we do it.”
Yet the fried avocado taco is apparently a “sleeper hit,” Young added.
“We were joking about, ‘People are going to want something fried,’” she added. “‘People are going to want like french fries, but who gets french fries at a taco truck? So we made up the avocado taco and it’s taken off. People that don’t even like avocado love this taco. It’s amazing. It’s crunchy, it’s been the biggest hit and surprise.”
You can find Rebel Tacos on Facebook @rebeltacos or on Instagram @rebeltacosjcmo for events and contact information.
When Luke Ready, owner of Ready Popped, began making batches of kettle corn seven years ago, the plan wasn’t to start a food truck or even start a business.
“The guy who normally did it got sick in our local parish,” Ready said, “so I was going to do it until he came back and paid off the machine and do it for fundraising. Before I knew it, we had four or five other parishes calling for us to come out to theirs and we were making a business out of it.”
Ready Popped, which began seven years ago, was just a local fundraiser for St. Francis Xavier parish in Taos. Since then, it’s expanded into its own kettle corn and popcorn business, operating out of a store that ships and wholesales, as well as using a truck that operates almost every weekend at events in the Jefferson City area.
Before the Ready Popped trailer ever came around, the business used a basic table and canopy set up at events for around four years.
“We literally just used tents and canopies and started popping out of that,” Ready said. “We lost six or seven (canopies) one year and my wife finally said, ‘Either you’re buying a trailer or I’m done,’ So I bought a trailer.”
Ready said things actually slowed down for his business after buying a trailer, but after three years with it, things have turned around.
“The first year (with a trailer) we were actually a little bit – not slower, but people didn’t recognize us,”
Ready said, “but now the trailer helps people recognize us.”
While Ready Popped works at least one event a weekend, Ready said the business makes about a third of its profits through either fundraising or corporate gifts. “It’s a good outlet for us to get our product our there to get people to try it,” he added.
When Ready Popped started, the business made just one flavor. It’s expanded to make 13 different flavors of popcorn and kettle corn, as well as pork rinds. Ready said his favorite part of the business is experimenting with new types.
“Trying new flavors, creating them,” Ready said of his favorite thing about the job. “It’s also probably the most frustrating because you think you have it and then it doesn’t turn out the way you want.”
Ready said his business only made kettle corn its first two years and then added caramel corn in year three, as well as pork rinds at about the same time. It wasn’t until just last year that the business started adding new flavors to its menu.
Ready Popped’s current menu includes the basic flavors like basic buttered popcorn and kettle corn, but also has a blend of savory and sweet flavors like jalapeño cheddar, dill pickle, cookies and cream, peanut butter and a multi-colored funfetti flavor. Even with all of those options, Ready said his favorite flavor, kettle corn, is still a top seller.
“The kettle corn by far, and then it goes caramel corn,” Ready said of his best selling flavors. “And then it’s kind of split between cookies and cream and peanut butter.”
During the lunch hour rush and nestled in the far southeast corner of the State Capitol lawn, one might spot workers pouring in from the Truman building and Attorney General’s office to form a line at Street Dawgs, a locally owned and operated hot dog cart.
Jason Allabaugh, owner and operator of Street Dawgs, decided that he wanted the cart to be his new form of cash flow after medically retiring from the military in 2016.
“My wife asked me, ‘Well, what are you going to do when you retire,’ and I said, ‘I want to open a hot dog cart,’” Allabaugh said. “She said, ‘You’re crazy.’ I said, ‘Well, nobody has one in town.’ So I just said, ‘I’m going to roll with it,’ and it’s been a blast ever since.”
Allabaugh said a big reason why he was inspired to open the cart was based on some of the local eats he had growing up on both the East and West coasts.
Allabaugh starts his days about 7:30 a.m. when the cart’s scheduled to open, but when he begins set up at about 10:15 a.m., he pre-cooks about 40 hot dogs. He sells double that on a regular lunch rush.
Street Dawgs offers a menu that often goes in rotation depending on sales, the season or however often the customer up to order frequents Allabaugh’s business. Allabaugh’s gotten a fair amount of regulars over the past couple of years, some so regular they hardly need to place their order once they get to the front of the line.
The cart’s menu features hot dogs with just ketchup and mustard, but as with many food trucks or trailers, Allabaugh’s cart offers hot dogs with eye-popping pairings.
“During the summer time, I do what’s called the Sloppy Dog,” Allabaugh said. “It’s like barbecue beef brisket, with coleslaw on top and people have asked for it even since February.
On top of the Hot Chick and the Sloppy Dog, the menu also includes the Popper Dog, which includes cream cheese and jalapeños, and the Mac Daddy, which includes mac and cheese and bacon crumbles. Although he may cook them, Allabaugh said he’s not the brainchild behind most of the crazy, however tasty, concoctions. Instead, Allabaugh credits his wife Tiffany with the bulk of the menu’s creations.
“My wife, I owe it to her actually to come up with the ideas,” Allabaugh said. “She comes up with these crazy ideas and says, ‘Try this, try that,’ and I’m like ‘OK.’ She’s pretty much the brains behind it.”
You can find Street Dawgs on Facebook @StDawgs for events and contact information.
Eat. Crepe. Love.
Offering both savory and sweet crepes – the French version of the pancake – with customized creations including Bacon Jalapeño Popper or Berry Love. Eat. Crepe. Love. caters lots of events in Mid-Missouri. Find out more at https://eatcrepelove.wordpress.com or find them on Facebook @eatcrepelovemo.
Jamaican Jerk Hut
Frequently stationed at Jeff City businesses and events, the Jerk Hut delivers authentic Jamaican dishes including jerk chicken or pork steak, oxtail, curry boat, Rasta Lemonade, Jamaican Soda and much more. For upcoming events and information find then on Facebook @JamJerkHut.
Popular and award-winning catering business Jefferson City-based Revel Catering and Events can take its delicious fare on the road with its gourmet food truck to corporate meetings, wedding rehearsals, galas, family reunions and much more. Find out more at reveljcmo.com.
Ozark Mountain Biscuit Co.
This Columbia-based food truck offers savory and sweet concoctions all on homemade biscuits, including Ozark Originals like the Boss Hog and Sunnyland Sides such as cornbread, fried tators and simmered greens. For more information visit ozarkmountainbiscuits.com or find them on Facebook @OzarkMountainBiscuitCo.
The Big Cheese
Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches such as Pig Mac, the Reuben Melt or The Italian, as well as sweet treats like The S’more, are making The Big Cheese food truck out of Columbia a Mid-Missouri favorite. Find out more on Facebook @TheBigCheeseMizzou.
Lilly’s Cantina is a gourmet catering company and food truck based in Columbia providing traditional Mexican food with a gourmet edge, or as they call it “Baja Midwest Fusion.” Offering appetizers, nachos, quesadillas, tacos and burritos such as “The O.G. Cali Burrito” and “The Rooster,” visitors of all tastes can find the perfect fit for their palate. Find out more at lillyscantina.com or on Facebook @lillyscantinacomo.